OPINION: Victim blaming – a major setback to progress on ending GBV
By Esther Aoko
Victim blaming refers to the act of holding victims and survivors of violence at fault for the harm that they have suffered through.
It is a socially constructed attitude that suggests that the survivor must have done something to provoke the perpetrator and is therefore responsible for what happened.
This retrogressive belief is causing major barriers to ending Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Firstly, when survivors of violence are blamed, they are less likely to report cases or even speak about them.
This is because blaming and shaming of victims and survivors of violence frustrates them and causes them to shy away from sharing their experience or reporting cases as a way of avoiding the diminishing effects of victim blaming.
Secondly, victim blaming reduces the chances of perpetrators of violence being held accountable for their actions.
When victims and survivors of violence are blamed, the attention is shifted from the perpetrator to the survivor and therefore the society concentrates more on what the survivor must have done to deserve or provoke what happened to them instead of focusing on bringing the perpetrator to justice.
This then leaves the perpetrator of violence free to go back to the society and continue causing harm.
Thirdly, the stigma that victims and survivors of violence face makes it hard for them to reintegrate back into the society and continue with their lives normally.
This is because they are viewed as people who attract violence, this is due to some myths that state that, when you associate yourself with someone who has gone through violence, you are likely to also go through violence.
Victim blaming not only takes back all the progress that is made daily on ending GBV, it also denies victims and survivors a chance to be heard, a chance to express their frustration and most importance an opportunity to get support which will help them to heal and get over these traumatic experiences.
For us to end violence, we first need to create awareness on the dangers if victim blaming and effects of violence through trainings, community outreaches, community dialogues and both online and offline campaigns.
Most importantly we need to change our attitude towards victims and survivors of violence. This can be achieved through offering our support, making sure they know that we are here for them and generally letting them know that it is not their fault.
It is time to shift the blame from the victims and survivors of violence and start blaming the perpetrators of violence.
Esther Aoko is a Sexual and Reproductive Health advocate